The Legal Advocate

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From the Director’s Desk: January 2018

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Welcome to 2018. As the new Executive Director, I am excited to lead NITA, and look forward to all that we can accomplish in our work together.

In my twelve years with NITA I have found myself consistently inspired by our organization’s ability to transform the careers, and lives of those in the legal profession, and in particular, to so many in the noble pursuit of justice.

In the last few years we have enriched our programming by adding supplemental content through new delivery methods, expanded our public service efforts around the globe, and continued to grow the network and sphere of NITA’s influence. In addition, we have continued to hold the trust and confidence of our clients; the firms, government agencies, and many other partner organizations who believe in and fund our work. We should be proud of these collective accomplishments. We also have work ahead.

Many have asked about my vision for NITA and I know there are questions about my own educational background. I intend to create the foundation and roadmap for a NITA as relevant to the next forty years of the legal profession as it was to the past forty. NITA is now poised to enter an era of new opportunity and growth. We come from a strong and impressive history, adhering to a teaching method that we know works, teaching confidence to the next generation of lawyers, and developing voices speaking meaningfully about NITA’s impact on their career. Building on that framework is the perfect place to begin NITA’s future; innovatation while adhering to our core values, and expanding our impact on the legal world while being true to our mission. I bring my own experience to NITA in business leadership and organizational development to guide us through our next chapter.

To do this effectively, I believe we must boldly embrace our heritage while developing and growing the platform, programming, and people that will carry us forward. In short, my focus will include three key things:

  • Evolving our programming to meet the changing marketplace for legal education;
  • Attracting and retaining talent and successfully managing transition planning;
  • Ensuring the heritage of the organization is sustained with the vision set for the future.

To begin the year and my tenure I am embarking on a multi-city Listening Tour.
I look forward to garnering important feedback on what the organization is doing well, what we can improve, and how we remain an invaluable resource to the profession. In April, the Board of Directors will convene to review the results of that tour and incorporate the learnings into our strategic planning.

I look forward to getting to know more of you in the weeks and months ahead and thank you, as always, for your ongoing support of NITA’s mission and work.

Wendy's Signature




Wendy McCormack
Executive Director
National Institute For Trial Advocacy

Inland Counties Legal Services/NITA Public Service Program

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To round out public service programs in 2017, NITA and Inland Counties Legal Services joined together to offer a public service program for legal service attorneys in Riverside, California. This trial skills program was held December 13 – 15 for 27 attorneys. NITA Program Director, Kathleen Cannon worked with Inland Counties Legal Services attorney Sang Banh to put the program into action and fulfill the training needs of the participants.

Kathleen felt very fortunate to work on this public service program and stated, “Being able to help create a personalized NITA trial program for the Inland Counties Legal Services was an incredibly uplifting experience. Tailoring our exercises specifically to the needs of these participants proved exceptionally valuable. We focused on areas they were most concerned about and in the end – every one of those involved praised the program because they felt the dramatic improvement of their trial skills in just three days.”

Likewise, Sang also found the training very beneficial to all of those involved and stated, “[The training] provided both experienced and inexperienced attorneys with proper techniques for trial advocacy to further our firm’s mission to provide access to justice for all. I have received numerous compliments on the NITA trainers and the NITA method of learning by doing.”

The participants agreed with Kathleen and Sang in stating that the training was very beneficial and completely worth taking the time to partake in. “[The training] was very realistic and relevant. The instructor’s teaching and feedback was very helpful. I left feeling much more competent and comfortable for trial work,” stated one participant.

After a great year for public service programs in 2017, NITA is excited to see what 2018 has in store!

Southern Poverty Law Center/NITA Public Service Program

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NITA and Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) worked together in 2017 on a public service training program, November 30 – December 1 in Montgomery, Alabama. This program was headed by Program Director Michael J. Dale. Michael, along with four other NITA faculty members, traveled to the headquarters of SPLC to work alongside SPLC’s most senior trial lawyers and train 48 SPLC litigators. Michael also worked closely with Legal Administrative Manager at SPLC, Rosi Smith, in order to put together a training schedule that would fit the needs of the attorneys.

This trial skills public service training was conducted over two days where skills such as direct and cross examination, how to work with exhibits, impeachment, and much more were practiced. According to Michael, SPLC works in a variety of civil rights areas in a number of southern cities dealing with issues of racial discrimination, juvenile justice, and immigration – to name a few. SPLC is led by civil rights icon Morris Dees and Managing Attorney Richard Cohen.

After the training concluded, many of the attorneys who attended found the course useful and a good introduction in a short period of time. “I found it helpful. I just graduated law school and never did any trial advocacy classes, so this training was a good introduction,” stated one attendee.

Likewise, another attendee stated, “As a very new attorney, I found the course to be extremely helpful. All the presenters were clear and engaging… it was helpful to receive tips on what techniques are most likely to resonate with juries.”

NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc./NITA Public Service Program

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This year, NITA joined forces with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) for a public service trial skills program, December 4 – 6 in New York, NY. The three-day program trained 12 attorneys and was led by Program Director Tom Swett. Tom worked with NITA Faculty Jeanne Jourdan to train the 12 attorneys on skills such as case analysis, direct and cross examination, and motions practice. Tom also worked closely with Director of Litigation at LDF, Sam Spital, to put together the trial skills schedule to fit the needs of the attorneys for this program.

According to Tom, “It was a pleasure to work with the talented attorneys of the LDF of the NAACP. NITA’s mission of promoting justice and ethical advocacy dovetails with the LDF’s mission of obtaining equal justice in employment, education, housing, voting rights, and criminal justice. The LDF trial attorneys today are continuing the legacy of Thurgood Marshall and all of the other civil rights attorneys who give voice to the voiceless and promote equality in all aspects of American lives.”

Furthermore, not only did Tom see positive growth in the attorneys at the end of the program, but participants also had positive remarks at the conclusion. Attendee Christopher Kemmitt, Senior Counsel at LDF stated, “NITA’s program gave us a great opportunity to learn new skills, experiment with different approaches, and get helpful feedback in a low-stress environment.”

Practical Criminal Procedure: A Constitutional Manual

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Practical Criminal Procedure: A Constitutional Manual by author Brent Newton is a guide for law students, criminal defense attorneys, and criminal prosecuting attorneys. This guide examines the major topics in constitutional criminal procedures and includes a reference to every significant decision of the United States Supreme Court that affects them. This text also addresses many issues of constitutional procedure not yet addressed by the United States Supreme Court that have been given extensive treatment by lower state and federal courts.

Furthermore, the third edition includes practical analysis of many new Supreme Court decisions that significantly have changed many aspects of constitutional criminal procedure.

Retail Price: $60

Available in: Print, Epub, and Mobi 

NITA’s team of practicing lawyers, professors and judges from around the nation dedicates its efforts to the training and development of skilled and ethical legal advocates to improve the adversarial justice system.

NITA’s Goals are to:

  • Promote justice through effective and ethical advocacy.
  • Train and mentor lawyers to be competent and ethical advocates in pursuit of justice.
  • Develop and teach trial advocacy skills to support and promote the effective and fair administration of justice.
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